What If...James Cameron Made Spider-Man In 1992?

Kevin Roegele

Do you mind if I don't?
May 2, 2000
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Just found an article I wrote for Hype! back in 2000(!) - on another site! They stole it! Anyway....

September 30, 2000

What If...James Cameron Made Spider-Man In 1992? by Kevin Roegele Spider-Man Hype

Unless you’re insane, you’ll know James Cameron never made his Spider-Man movie. But it would be great somehow we could see what it would have turned out like - and you can piece together a damn good idea from his other work. So, I've sat and watched every film the beard has made (except Piranha II) to create a mock magazine review of Cameron’s Spidey film, as I imagine it would have turned out back in 1992, if his original attempts to make it were successful. Electro and the Sandman don't feature as I believe Cameron would have found them too expensive to achieve in 1992. Anyway...


1992, 20th Century Fox, Director: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus), Edward Furlong (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Drew Barrymore, Jonathan Frakes, Angela Landsbury, Robert Wagner, Pat Hingle, Danny Glover. 121 mins. Cert. PG-13

Many of today’s foremost directors have been influenced by comicbooks, including Sam Raimi (who himself would have been an interesting choice to direct) and Tim Burton (who’s Batman sequel is Spider-Man’s main box-office opponent). James Cameron loves comics as well. Terminator 2 (1991) is one of the best comicbook inspired movies ever; two superpowered beings clashing with each other, and causing vandalism on a mass scale during their city-wide brawls - as comicbook as you can get. The T-1000 is a supervillain if ever there was one. Okay, the Term flicks were based on an old episode of the Outer Limits, but apart from that and the guns, this is Marvel comics for adults.

Spider-Man, which really is a Marvel comic (and a 30 year old one at that), is his latest big-budget extravaganza. Focusing on angst-ridden 17 year old Peter Parker (Edward Furlong), it sees him gain the powers of a spider, enabling him to scale walls, lift up cars and "kick some serious ass". Calling himself Spider-Man, he also discovers the ability to sense danger and constructs a red and blue costume and ‘web-shooters’, which fire strands of spider-silk for him to swing through the city on. Coming up against the evil Doctor Octopus (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Spidey must protect the city whilst trying keeping his secret from his unsuspecting Aunt May (Angela Landsbury) avoiding the school bullies, and romancing class babe Mary Jane (Drew Barrymore).

Edward Furlong, who Cameron cast as John Connor in T2, plays a very similar role here, as Peter Parker: An unhappy kid with a messed up life who is suddenly put into an extraordinary situation. Cameron loves his rebellious, long-haired, slightly whiny kids as they are basically his teenage wish fulfillment figures, and Peter Parker is the same. Fans have complained that this is an incorrect portrayal of their hero, who certainly doesn’t make the savage threats to criminals he does here, but it’s an engaging portrayal nonetheless. Shifting from upset to upbeat and back throughout the film, Furlong does well as schoolkid-turned-superhero who has to handle the staggering changes in his life. As a puberty allegory, which Spider-Man undoubtedly is, Furlong’s performance is extremely well-judged.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his third collaboration with Cameron (they are planning a fourth, a James Bond pastiche), plays the bad guy again. This time, he’s introverted, nerdy scientist Otto Octavius, who gets four long mechanical arms attached to him and becomes supervillain Doctor Octopus. Although, aided by some superb special effects, Arnie is physically menacing, that’s about all he can bring to the picture. His limited acting range, not aided by a script which paints him as evil as they come, makes him a very unconvincing scientist. Pre-accident, his fellow scientists mock him to his face, but who would mock the Terminator? And why wouldn’t he simply hit them? Still, the name of the world’s biggest movie star on the posters is wise thinking for a film with no other real huge stars.

ET (1982) actress Drew Barrymore plays redhead Mary Jane Watson, or MJ as she’s known. Going against the typical damsel in distress route of so many superhero’s girlfriends, MJ is a tough, spirited, feisty girl who helps Spidey in his fights and punches a school bully who is picking on Peter. The fact that she’s also very feminine and a wannabe-supermodel makes this doubly unusual. Barrymore is obviously enjoying herself and enlivens her scenes, while impressing in the emotional stakes. She has a very bright career ahead of her. The other notables amongst the cast include Star Trek: The Next Generation's William Frakes as savage gangland thug Kraven the Hunter, who decides Spider-Man will be "the greatest hunt of all." Frakes shakes off his upright image by being downright vicious and disturbing, and throwing knives at people. Murder She Wrote stalwart Angela Landsbury provides solid support as Peter's beloved Aunt May. The rest of the cast are adequate, including a cameo from Danny Glover, but the plot really centers on the three central individuals: hero, villain, love interest.

Taking place in a big, bustling New York (with skyscrapers that figure largely throughout) rather than a gothic neverwhere, Spider-Man is a more realistic than Batman (1989) from the word go. Cameron doesn’t want you to look at the sets or locations, he wants you to look at the actors. And although this is fantasy, it’s grounded in reality. Spidey is powerful but no Superman, bleeding when he is hit and swearing when he is angry. One particular line: "*****ing hell, MJ, what if Aunt May came in?" has infuriated purists. But it’s what a 17 year old boy would say given the situation (and many 17 year olds would love to be given the situation). And his powers don’t make his life any easier - they make it far more complicated, with a series of events ranging from simply painful to tragic enforcing the point that, as newspaper editor JJJ (Robert Wagner) says, "Life don’t get easier, pal." Anyone expecting a cheerful piece of escapist adventure will be disappointed.

Cameron handles the action with breathtaking skill, proving he is without a doubt the greatest helmer of action sequences alive today. He manages to up the ante of T2 and Aliens (1986) with a series of frenetic, thrilling confrontations between Spidey and Doctor Octopus that will leave audiences breathless and stunned. The frenetic, 20 minute climax, which sees Spidey, MJ and her little brother chased by Doctor Octopus through a sinking ship, is relentlessly adrenaline-pumping. The two powers of the hero and villain allow for far more inventive violence than your standard shootout. Spidey is inhumanly agile, an acrobatic showman who will backflip between two skyscrapers to avoid a hail of gunfire, while Doctor Octopus walks over the terrified traffic like a giant Daddy Long Legs. Doc Ock can also wrap his arms around himself as a shield against police fire.

The action comes in both quality and quantity; there is a lot of it. Doc Ock pulls a helicopter into building. Spider-Man, when faced with a car with a bomb inside it somewhere, just picks up the whole thing and hurls it into the harbor. The duo stage an incredible fight whilst Spidey abseils, and Doc Ock climbs, down the Statue of Liberty. Parents have complained about the violence in large numbers. "This is very violent and nothing like the cartoons," one unhappy mother told me. Fans hit back saying that it’s exactly the same stuff that the comics depict, perhaps forgetting than what you can do in a comic you can’t necessarily do in the far more realistic medium of film. Certainly, those with a firm view on film censorship will have much to debate, especially a scene in which Doctor Octopus drops a car on someone. There is also a completely gratituitous sequence with Barrymore topless.

No-one will be complaining about the special effects, however. While the blue screen and model work is expertly applied, the pioneering work done on T2 means a computer generated Spider-Man who can do the things that even this film's expert stuntmen can’t manage. Whether climbing up vertical walls or swinging through the city on his weblines, it’s very hard to tell the real Spider-Man and the CGI Spider-Man apart. Truly a step-forward in special effects technology, with many believing the visual effects Oscar is already in the bag.

Up against Batman Returns this summer, Spider-Man will bring in a younger audience than Tim Burton’s reportedly even darker sequel. Although not suitable for under 10’s, Spider-Man is spectacular, unforgettable entertainment that promises viewers fantastic visuals they’ve never seen before. Another Cameron action classic, an intelligent superhero movie, and a must to see this summer. Whether comic fans will be so delighted is another question, however.
I so wish this movie was made. :(
Commander Riker as Kraven the Hunter??!! Bahahahaha :D
I have a spiderman script on my computer dated 1985!!!
Did this script ever make it online? I have never seen it, sounds cool though.
didn't cameron's treatment involve sandman and an elctro rip off?
Is that is? I don't remember Mj being it. Or a urban Kraven. I could be wrong, but it sounds like a good read if it is out there.
I thought Leonardo Dicaprio was going to be Peter Parker Spider-Man not Edward Furlong, Cameron also wanted Nikki Cox for Mary Jane Watson. Also Boyd/Sandman and Carlton Strand/Electro were the villians even though they were'nt the true characters from the comics.
Did Cameron say if he was going to use the traditional spidey costume or if the he was changing the design?
Cameron also wanted Nikki Cox for Mary Jane Watson.

I've always thought Nikki Cox would make a good MJ.Too old now though.
that movie would have been awful. An angry searing peter? Arnold as Dock Ock? what the hell?

Thank Sony for Raimi!
I probably wouldn't have sucked like Raimi's movies. There I said it.
yeah, i read a script, supposedly the one by james cameron, and it sucked. im happy with what we have
I wish Cameron would have made the Spiderman Movies.....i´m sure his Versions would kick the crap out of Raimis.
boywonder13 said:
I have a spiderman script on my computer dated 1985!!!
Oh Shoot!That's the one that was never made and the one with Scott Leva as Spidey!:spidey:
cameron was going to have leo dicaprio as spidey and he was going have him wear a black suit. Superheroes wearing black was the trend at the time...Batman89, tim burtons failed superman movie was also going to have supes wearing black.
There would have been just as much, if not MORE, b:tching by fanboyish geeks with James Cameron's movie. Did you fools read his scriptment, no director is ever going to follow the comics they way fanboys want, deal with it?

Now, get back to your comic books of Iron Spidey, The Others and the Ultimate titles, oh wait, they ain't following your geekish rules either. You people have a lot of angry letters to write, get started.:D
Don't bash me but I personally think Arnold Schwarzenegger could have been a pretty good Doc Ock. I mean an evil one, not the kind you feel sorry for.
Mr. Socko said:
Don't bash me but I personally think Arnold Schwarzenegger could have been a pretty good Doc Ock. I mean an evil one, not the kind you feel sorry for.

If Ock was written the way he was in Raimi's movie,then it wouldn't matter what actor was in the role.You'd still feel sorry for him.Even with Arnie.

Anyway Schwarzenegger is way too big to play Ock.Thank god Cameron's movie never happened.

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